Franklin's eight seniors will leave a lasting legacy
They are still hungry to go out on top
The seniors on Franklin's 2011 baseball team accepted the congratulations and well-wishes of their teammates, coaches and fans on Friday evening.
They then thanked the crowd by putting on a show.
Evan Walton, Jay Dirienzo and Ryan Geil combined for seven hits in nine at-bats, two home runs and eight runs batted in, while Trevor Theissen worked one inning on the mound, contributing to a five-inning no-hitter, as the Sabers blanked Cudahy, 12-0.
That seems like a pretty good way to celebrate Senior Night at Jim Hughes Field.
Those four, along with fellow seniors Marcus Schlemm, Ian Malmstadt, Jesse Palok and Joel Kornhoff, have been outstanding all season in helping the Sabers go 23-7 for yet another 20-victory campaign in Hughes' coaching career.
The eight players have also made many contributions over the past four years, during which Franklin has racked up 100 victories, two trips to the WIAA state tournament and a state championship - the school's first in its long run of success - in 2010.
"They are good all-around athletes," said Hughes, who has coached more than his share of talented players during his tenure. "What really separates these kids, though, is that they don't panic.
"When things aren't going right, they don't fold up. We have a number of come-from-behind wins this season."
Geil, a team captain who pitches and plays the infield, agreed with Hughes that the team's winning attitude is crucial.
"Everyone on the team doesn't want to lose," Geil said. "No matter how far down we get, we always feel we have a chance to win."
That supreme confidence is born of several factors, not the least of which is the fact that these seniors played on a state championship team a year ago. In other words, they have 'been there.'
"This team knows what it takes," said Walton, another captain who plays the outfield. "We have all the experience."
The seniors also possess a tremendous work ethic.
"They are all hard workers," Hughes said. "Ian Malmstadt is one of the hardest workers I've ever coached."
Malmstadt, another captain who posted an 8-0 record on the mound, echoed that thought.
"The guys were in the weight room without any coaches' assistance," he said. "This senior class has taken it upon itself to work hard.
"We are also a competitive group. We want to win and we want to be the best we can be."
Yet another factor for its success is team chemistry. Not only are six of the seniors three-year varsity starters, but they have also been playing together in youth state leagues since they were 10 years old.
"We all know each other real well," Walton said. "Everyone knows what everyone else is like. If one guy gets down, the others pick him up, and we pick each other up. We have a strong bond, like a family."
That Franklin family, led by its seniors, opened WIAA tournament play on Tuesday against St. Thomas More.
If the Sabers won, they would travel to South Milwaukee for sectional action at 1:30 p.m. Friday. They would likely meet Greenfield (17-13), a team they dispatched during its run to the state title last year.
The winner goes to the sectional championship game at 4:30 p.m., also at South Milwaukee, where top seeded Oak Creek could await.
"We know our goal," Malmstadt said, "to get back to state. It will be a huge disappointment if we don't make it.
"Our confidence is not as high as it was last year because our lineup has not been clicking in some games, but we're still a confident group.
"We've been at state two years in a row and we want to get back there. We also know that there are some good teams out there. The sectional looks stronger than last season."
The seniors know what needs to happen for the Sabers to make another journey to state and end their high school careers on top.
"Everyone has to start hitting," Walton said. "We need timely hits and everything needs to click."
Geil added, "As long as our bats stay alive, we can win any game. Our defense (only 31 errors in 30 games) and pitching have been strong. If our bats show up, we have a chance."
Here are some 2011 regular-season statistics for the eight seniors on the Franklin baseball team:
JAY DIRIENZO: Batted .545 with 48 hits, including a school-record 13 home runs and drove in 50 runs to tie the school mark … slugged at an .841 clip.
EVAN WALTON: Hit .392 with 20 extra-base hits, including six homers and drove in 26 runs … he slugged .588.
TREVOR THEISSEN: At shortstop, he spearheaded an airtight defense … also batted .366 with 16 RBIs.
RYAN GEIL: Hit .355 with 27 RBIs, second on the team and was a starting pitcher as well.
IAN MALMSTADT: Was the ace of the pitching staff, going 8-0 with a 1.43 earned-run average in 49 innings.
JESSE PALOK: Besides steadying the pitching staff, Palok drove in eight runs.
MARCUS SCHLEMM: He belted a three-run home run in Franklin's 7-2 GMC tournament victory over Muskego last week … he was also 3-0 on the mound with a 2.44 ERA.
JOEL KORNHOFF: Had several key hits during last week's Greater Metro Conference tournament, including a two-run homer in the victory over Muskego.
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